On the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series

Another Fine Mess

By Adam-Troy Castro

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy comes down to a cross between two phenomena I call the Laurel and Hardy Paradox and the Two-Guys-In-A-Spaceship-Getting-In-Trou-ble-Again-Story.

They’re really two separate aspects of the same phenomenon, since the Laurel and Hardy Paradox is in and of itself a key element of the average Two-Guys-In-A-Spaceship-Getting-In-Trouble-Again story. But the Paradox is such an integral element that it deserves its own separate explanation.

To wit:

You have these dudes, Laurel and Hardy. (Or Abbott and Costello, or the Three Stooges, but let’s not drive ourselves crazy here. It’s called the Laurel and Hardy Paradox, not the Laurel and Hardy Paradox with Footnotes. Accept it.) Anyway, Laurel and Hardy are screw-ups of the highest order, who regularly demolish their own lives with hilarious self-inflicted disasters. In most of the one- or two-reel shorts that represent their best work, they take a relatively minor problem, like fixing a boat, or delivering a piano, or installing a rooftop aerial, and through hard work and the diligent application of escalating incompetence succeed in reducing every breakable surface around them to absolute rubble.

The Paradox is not that this happens to them. We can see why it happens to them. It has to happen to them.

The Paradox is that it doesn’t happen to them sooner.

You see, though the pair are most frequently seen as vagrants, many Laurel and Hardy shorts begin with the two buddies as homeowners or storekeepers or furniture movers or carpenters or police officers or mid-dle-class  …

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